The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and the Powerful Spirit of Michael Tilson Thomas

Sep 23, 2013 / By Serena
Posted in Good Ideas / Places / San Francisco Bay Area

On Friday, I gratefully played audience for a deeply stirring performance of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and its spirited conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas. They resurrected Mahler’s 9th Symphony, a piece so rich and formidable that Mahler named a previous symphony Das Lied von der Erde in order to avoid reaching the fateful 9th (in actuality it is his 10th symphony, although it is never called that.) Beehtoven and Bruckner before him had written intensely powerful 9th Symphonies, and these had both been their last. Mahler, the fiery genius, wanted life! Especially in the last two movements, his gesture for eternal presence is exposed in the music in a gracefully triumphant mirroring of strings and woodwinds, sumptuous chords, and bold restraint where but a few notes are played. I could imagine Mahler himself, reaching toward light, beaconing an ongoing use of his sublime skill as a conduit for transforming spirit into sound.

Michael… Read more»

Recipe: Poached Seckel Pears

Sep 13, 2013 / By Serena
Posted in Good Ideas / Kitchen Adventures / Recipes

Having the last name Bartlett, I have a natural-born fondness for pears. It makes sense. One of my favorites that’s commercially grown, thus widely available, is the sweet little seckel. (Sorry Bartletts!) They are sweet – you’ll sometimes find them labeled sugar pears – and they have a dense flesh. I’ve been told they are one of the few truly American pears, other popular types being derived from European cultivars.

It is hard to top a perfectly-ripe pear in its simplicity for a snack or for dessert, but seckels lend themselves to some marvelous kitchen transformations, too. I once made a glazed frangipane tart with extra crumbly, buttery dough, and used poached seckels on top and the thickened juice from their cooking for the glaze. (pictured above)

Poaching them is simple. Any people who aren’t in love with the pear flesh texture will change their mind when they are prepared this… Read more»

A16 Rockridge begins Brunch

Sep 7, 2013 / By Serena
Posted in Good Ideas / Places / San Francisco Bay Area

This Sunday is gonna be great – I can just feel it. I admit, I’ve caught weekend fever. It’s ushered in on the wings of good news: a new brunch menu at A16, one of the tastiest places on College Avenue, in Oakland’s bountiful Rockridge neighborhood.

From 11 to 2 every Sunday starting tomorrow, Chef Maselli, of Puglia roots, is indulging guests with some of his morning-time Italian specialties. This means the buttery flakes of sfogliatelle, a shell-shaped pastry from Naples, and the Italianate donut, called zeppole, dusted with sugar and served with creme anglais and homemade jam.

For the savory side there are the A16 staple pizzas, hot from wood fire, and crudo like oysters and anchovies from our local waters. There will also be a unique frittata each week, made from the freshest in-season ingredients.

A16 well represents the journey its’ namesake road that travels from… Read more»

Probably the best chocolate in the world, coming to Palo Alto

Sep 5, 2013 / By Serena
Posted in Good Ideas / Places / San Francisco Bay Area

It’s a big statement – the best chocolate in the world – but I can say for certain that Claudio Corallo Chocolate is the purest and most enjoyable chocolate bar I’ve ever experienced. This man is the Indiana Jones of the chocolate world. He’s an agronomist, caring about the quality of the delicate diva-like cocoa trees, and the community of his workers and his island home of Sao Tome before fancy marketing campaigns and industry standards in chocolate making.

I’m pleased to tell you, however last minute, that Claudio himself will be in Palo Alto to officially open his new store tomorrow, Friday, September 6th, from 6 to 8:30pm for a special grand opening party.

Although he’s mastered several native African languages and speaks French, Portuguese, and his native Italian, he’s not an English speaker. But, he speaks the language of chocolate, and has brought a methodology and an… Read more»

Free Outdoor Cinema in Montclair, Oakland

Sep 4, 2013 / By Serena
Posted in Good Ideas / Places / San Francisco Bay Area

With summer quickly waning, I’m finding the need to extend it any way I can. How perfect, then, to discover that there’s one more date in Red Oak Realty’s Summer Cinema Series in Montclair Village, one of my favorite Oakland neighborhoods. The realty company’s new-ish office has a large, two-story facing wall abutting a parking lot, which lends the ideal situation for outdoor movie screening.

Mark your calendars for September 21st when there will be astroturf laid down in the emptied parking lot, and the imaginative movie Brave, projected on a screen hung from the side of the building. Get there at 7:30 to snag a seat – the film begins at 8pm. The address is 6450 Moraga Avenue, behind Montclair Bistro.

Before the movie head to Farmstead Cheeses and Wines to pick up tasty movie snacks, or Read more»